’We have run out of PPEs and coffins,’ say undertakers
Johannesburg - Funeral undertakers are feeling the effects of the devastating Covid-19’s second wave.
The effects have reportedly forced families to wait for weeks to bury their loved ones, with coffins becoming scarce on the market.
Retrenchments and job losses have also led to high volumes of funeral cover cancellations, as clients are unable to keep up with their monthly premiums.
President of the National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA, Muzi Hlengwa, said that the funeral industry could not make adequate preparations for the second wave.
“Things are really bad, in terms of business and the current state of the virus.
“A lot of clients have come forward to cancel their policies not because they want to but because it's the situation they are faced with and unfortunately some things are beyond our control," Hlengwa said.
He added that they have to be tough and operate like any other business.
“Unfortunately if government does not intervene sooner things will get out of hand. We cannot continue like this at all,” said Hlengwa.
According to the association, some families have not been able to bury their loved ones who passed away in December.
“A number of undertakers closed for the December holidays and it happened that during that period coffins ran out. Some families are still waiting for undertakers to be opened this week,” he said.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday that 21 832 new cases were identified while 844 deaths were reported, taking the country's cumulative case count to 1 149 591 and death toll to 31 368.
The Eastern Cape is among provinces deemed as a hot spot and has recorded the most Covid-19 related deaths with the total reported on Wednesday to be 8292.
Deputy president of the association in the Eastern Cape, Mzukisi Mahamaba, said the situation was getting worse by the day.
“We have run out of PPEs and coffins. That is the sad reality, the second wave has really been difficult to deal with. The number of people waiting to be buried in our province is just as alarming as the positive cases.”
Mahamaba said the demand for coffins has also strained their relationships with clients.
“Some of them are understanding but obviously others don’t want to hear anything and we understand because it’s what they are going through and the pressure that comes with giving your loved one a dignified funeral.”
The situation is no different in Gauteng, which currently has 35 727 active coronavirus cases.
Co-ordinator of the SA Chamber of Undertakers, Nhlanhla Bhembe, said employees in the funeral industry were fearing for their lives.
“Our employees are no different from front line workers, especially the nurses. We have to treat every corpse as a Covid-19 case and we need PPEs.”
Bhembe said clients have been forced to compromise and make difficult sacrifices in order to bury their relatives.
The undertakers have called for assistance from government and pinned their hopes on the Covid-19 vaccine.
The country’s recovery rate stands at 929 239 or 80.8%.